TIME 2016 Election

Between The Lines Of Hillary Clinton’s Benghazi Book Chapter

Hillary Clinton
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at the New America Foundation (NAF) conference at the Newseum on May 16, 2014 in Washington. Olivier Douliery—ABACA USA

"Hard Choices" offers an exquisitely lawyerly version of Benghazi that is less inaccurate than some Republican accounts.

If you want the simple truth about Benghazi, it’s this:

  • As protests against an anti-Islamic video raged in 40 countries around the world on Sept. 11 and 12, 2012, major American media outlets incorrectly reported that protests preceded the attacks on U.S. buildings in Benghazi, too.
  • Despite evidence the attacks were in fact a coordinated assault by heavily armed Islamic militants, the CIA believed the incorrect media reports and spent the following week repeating them to the Obama administration and members of Congress.
  • The Obama administration and members of Congress in turn repeated them to the public, giving Americans the mistaken impression two months before the 2012 Presidential election that four U.S. officials, including U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed by demonstrators not terrorists.

If, on the other hand, you want a truth that accommodates the best interests of those who, wittingly or not, contributed to that mistaken impression, you will get this:

There were scores of attackers that night, almost certainly with differing motives… It is inaccurate to state that every single one of them was influenced by this hateful video. It is equally inaccurate to state that none of them were. Both assertions defy not only the evidence but logic as well.

That appears to be the bottom line representation of the origins of the Benghazi attack presented in the 34-page chapter on the subject in Hillary Clinton’s forthcoming book, “Hard Choices,” which was leaked to Politico this week. It is an exquisitely lawyerly, and factually accurate, assertion.

It’s also largely beside the point. No doubt the perpetrators of every terrorist attack of the last 20 years acted with “differing motives.” But no mainstream media outlet or politician took “differing motives” as justification, at the time or months later, to frame 9/11 or the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania as the result of popular outrage rather than militancy. In retrospect, the mistaken assertion of “protests” at Benghazi is not hard to understand–in three of the 40 countries where protests were taking place, U.S. facilities were attacked by demonstrators. That doesn’t justify the error.

But the Benghazi narrative has drifted so far from the context of the actual events that it is almost impossible to have a useful debate about it. Indeed, Clinton’s version is substantially more accurate than the version of events offered by some Republicans. The GOP head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Congressman Darrell Issa of California, for example, has said he suspects Hillary Clinton told the Defense Department to “stand down” rather than launch counterstrikes against the Benghazi attackers, even though multiple bipartisan reports, including ones Issa himself signed, find no stand down orders and no communication between Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta at the time. In other words, no factual evidence at all.

At some point in the coming 2016 Presidential contest there will be a debate about whether Obama administration officials used the uncertainty generated by (incorrect) media and CIA reports to maximum advantage ahead of the 2012 election. That’s called spin, and Americans have a right to know if political interests affected the presentation of the facts in the days after the Benghazi attacks.

When that debate takes place, however, another simple fact will reemerge. When the White House needed someone to appear on all five Sunday shows on Sept. 16, 2012 to translate the (incorrect) media and CIA version of events at Benghazi to the American public, Hillary Clinton stepped aside and let then-U.N. representative Susan Rice speak. It will be interesting to see if Clinton’s book has anything to say about whether that hard choice was the result of luck, wisdom or sound advice from her aides.

TIME 9/11

9/11 Memorial Timelapse Shows a Decade of Recovery in 2 Minutes

For 4,617 days (and counting) cameras trained on ground zero captured the resilience of a nation

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Days after the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers fell in downtown New York City on September 11, 2001, EarthCam CEO Brian Cury trained a camera on ground zero to capture the recovery effort.

Like the recovery effort itself, that project expanded over time, with more cameras installed at different angles to capture the construction of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum built in the space once occupied by the towers. In this timelapse video, images collected by EarthCam between 2004 and 2014 are assembled to show the decade of construction that turned the rubble of 9/11 into a memorial and museum, the latter of which opened Thursday.

“I hope this time-lapse serves as a way to recognize that for the 10 years of construction, there was constant progress made to rebuild these important 16 acres of America,” Cury said in the video description on YouTube.

TIME remembrance

Exclusive Pictures of the New 9/11 Museum

An exclusive look inside the museum due to open May 21 dedicated to preserving and memorializing the events of Sept. 11, 2001, as well as educating future generations about the tales of tragedy, bravery and recovery that emerged from that infamous day.

TIME 9/11

Unidentified 9/11 Remains Returned to World Trade Center

Emergency personnel carry a casket draped with a U.S. flag during the ceremonial transfer of the 9/11 unidentified remains to the OCME repository at the World Trade Center site, in New York
Emergency personnel carry a casket draped with a U.S. flag during the ceremonial transfer of the 9/11 unidentified remains to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York (OCME) repository at the World Trade Center site, in New York May 10, 2014. Eric Thayer—Reuters

The unidentified remains of victims killed in the September 11 attacks were returned to the site Saturday morning. The remains will be stored in an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum

Unidentified remains of those killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City were returned to the World Trade Center Saturday in a somber morning procession.

Few bystanders gathered for the five-mile procession, which began at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner on Manhattan’s East Side, where the remains were previously kept. Some construction workers near the World Trade Center paused to pay their respects and a small number of firefighters saluted the vehicles as they arrived at the site, the Associated Press reports.

The remains will be stored in an underground repository in the same building as the National September 11 Memorial Museum, which will help to coordinate family visits. Some victims’ family members gathered at the World Trade Center site Saturday in protest, saying the remains should be stored above ground at a separate monument.

Some officials hope that technology improvements could lead to the eventual identification of the remains.

2,753 were killed in the attacks at the World Trade Center. 41 percent of the victims have not yet been identified.

[AP]

TIME National Security

Judge Says a Radical Cleric’s 9/11 Comments Can Be Used as Evidence

Muslim cleric Mustafa Kamel Mustafa prays in a street outside his Mosque in north London, on March 28, 2003.
Muslim cleric Mustafa Kamel Mustafa prays in a street outside his Mosque in north London, on March 28, 2003. Alastair Grant—AP

A judge has ruled that jurors at the trial of Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, a fundamentalist and former imam who's known as Abu Hamza al-Masri, will be allowed to hear comments he made to praise the Sept. 11 terrorists attacks

Jurors at the trial of radical Islamic cleric Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, who is also known as Abu Hamza al-Masri, will be privy to comments the suspect made praising the 9/11 terrorists attacks, a judge ruled this week.

Mustafa is accused of trying to establish al Qaeda training camps in Oregon in the late 1990s and of aiding extremists who kidnapped a group of foreigners, including two American tourists, in Yemen in 1998.

According to an undated interview with a British television station, Mustafa stated: “Everybody was happy when the planes hit the World Trade Center.” And according to U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest, who is presiding over the case, these comments can be presented as evidence in court.

“Expressing clear and unequivocal support for terrorism is no doubt prejudicial. However, the defendant is charged with just those sorts of crimes,” Judge Katherine B. Forrest said in a written decision earlier this week.

Jury selection for the case concludes on Monday, while opening statements for the trial are set to commence on Thursday morning.

[AP]

TIME National Security

NYPD Nixes Muslim Spy Unit

Authorities have ended a widely criticized surveillance initiative that collected details about Muslim communities after a re-evaluation by the city's new police commissioner. The deacde-long program never produced leads about possible terrorist activity

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The New York Police Department has shuttered a program designed to spy on Muslim communities, the department announced on Tuesday.

The surveillance initiative, which began in 2003 and was once known as the Demographics Unit, sent detectives into neighborhoods with Muslim populations to eavesdrop on conversations and record detailed information about where and how Muslims spent their time. The decision to end the program signifies a re-evaluation of the department’s post-9/11 intelligence policies by the city’s new police commissioner, William Bratton, the New York Times reports.

The department’s activities attracted both criticism from the FBI and civil rights organizations as well as multiple federal lawsuits.

“The Demographics Unit created psychological warfare in our community,” Linda Sarsour, of the Arab American Association of New York, told the Times. “Those documents, they showed where we live. That’s the café where I eat. That’s where I pray. That’s where I buy my groceries. They were able to see their entire lives on those maps. And it completely messed with the psyche of the community.”

The NYPD has admitted that its tactics never generated a lead about possible terrorist activity.

[NYT]

TIME Military

FBI Tried to Recruit Member of 9/11 Plotters’ Legal Team, Lawyers Claim

The 9/11 accused confer with their defense lawyers during a break in pretrial hearings at the U.S. Navy base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on April 14, 2014.
The 9/11 accused confer with their defense lawyers during a break in pretrial hearings at the U.S. Navy base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on April 14, 2014. Janet Hamlin—EPA

The defense team for five men accused of planning and launching the Sept. 11 attacks, currently in pretrial hearings at Guantánamo Bay, alleges the FBI attempted to turn one of its lawyers into a confidential informant

At Guantánamo Bay, the wheels of justice turn not so much slowly, as seldom. Twelve and a half years after 9/11, the five men accused of planning and launching the attack are in pretrial hearings at a military tribunal there. On Monday, the tribunal held proceedings for the first time since December. Within minutes, the hearing recessed.

As the indefatigable Carol Rosenberg reports in the Miami Herald, Army Colonel James L. Pohl, who is the presiding judge on the tribunal, called the recess after lawyers for the accused terrorists said the FBI had tried to turn a member of the defense team into a confidential informant:

Defense lawyers alleged Monday that in at least one instance, two FBI agents enlisted a civilian on the defense team of accused plot deputy Ramzi bin al Shibh as a confidential informant.

The FBI declined several requests for a comment.

The development seemed to stun the chief prosecutor, Army Brig. Mark Martins, who told the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, that he was unaware of the FBI activity.

Martins is struggling to keep proceedings moving. While his primary task is to prosecute the five men, he also is under scrutiny for the effectiveness of the tribunal itself. The Obama Administration tried to bring the plot’s ringleader, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to the U.S. for trial early in Obama’s first term but found it politically impossible to do so. Since then, every development at the tribunal has been viewed as a potential judgment on whether military trials are more or less effective than the U.S. court system, where al-Qaeda terrorists continue to be brought to justice with some regularity.

The current fits and starts at Gitmo are inevitably unfolding as part of that debate. The December delay came thanks to questions of whether one defendant, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, was competent to stand trial after repeated outbursts at his hearings. Monday’s delay, with luck, will be shorter: proceedings are expected to start again Tuesday.

TIME Domestic Surveillance

Intel Chief Admits Continued Snooping on Americans

US National Intelligence director Clapper appears before House Intelligence Committee in Washington
Director of U.S. National Intelligence James Clapper appears before the House Intelligence Committee on "Worldwide Threats" in Washington February 4, 2014. Gary Cameron - Reuters

National Intelligence Director James Clapper admits that intelligence agencies are still searching through Americans' emails and phone records without warrants, but tells a top lawmaker that such practices are allowed under federal law

Authorities continue to comb through Americans’ phone and email records without warrants, the nation’s top intelligence official acknowledged recently.

In a letter from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, written on March 28 but disclosed Tuesday, Clapper said authorities have the legal right to conduct such monitoring under federal law.

“As you know, when Congress reauthorized Section 702, the proposal to restrict such queries was specifically raised and ultimately not adopted,” Clapper wrote, referring to a provision in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows intelligence officials to monitor Americans in some cases if it’s in pursuit of foreign targets.

Wyden, who has been a fierce critic of the government’s domestic surveillance tactics and has been increasingly vocal in the wake of leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, panned Clapper’s reliance on what he called “loopholes” in the law.

“Today’s admission by the Director of National Intelligence is further proof that meaningful surveillance reform must include closing the back-door searches loophole and requiring the intelligence community to show probable cause before deliberately searching through data collected under section 702 to find the communications of individual Americans,” Wyden and fellow Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) said in a joint statement Tuesday.

Amendments to the FISA law enacted in 2008 effectively legalized the warrantless surveillance program the Bush administration installed following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

TIME U.S.

Dog Dials 911 on Smartphone

Bad dog, bad

A dog in Nebraska accidentally dialed 911 on a smartphone when trying to cuddle up next to its owner on the couch, AP reports.

The owner, Melissa Acosta, discovered her dog had dialed the number when she heard a voice asking for an address of emergency and realized her dog had scratched the screen of her smartphone lying in the couch with its paws.

The owner says the whole episode “was a little embarrassing.”

According to the 911 Assistant Director Marilyn Gable, it’s the first time a dog has called 911.

[AP]

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